No extra money for flooded eastern Ontario farmers, says agriculture minister
One farmer lost more than 150 hectares of farmland to flooding this year
Ontario's agriculture minister says the province's existing insurance system is enough to help eastern Ontario farmers challenged by flooded fields, but changing how the federal system works could open up more money in the future.
Jeff Leal toured the sometimes muddy, barren fields of North Gower in rural south Ottawa on Tuesday morning, saying it's been a "very challenging" spring and summer for farmers east of Highway 400 because of heavy rains and flooding.
- Intense rain floods basements, streets, fields in North Gower
- Some Ottawa farmers still can't plant crops in soaked fields
- After heavy rains damage crops, Holland Marsh farmers hope for clear skies
Despite this, Leal didn't come with promises of extra money or resources to help compensate farmers for their lost crops.
Instead, he said the province's existing "business risk management" insurance system, run by government agency AgriCorp with an annual government contribution of $100 million, is the best way for farmers to get money back — provided they'd signed up for one or more of its programs.
"We're facing volatile weather patterns, often on a regional basis," Leal said.
"We hope it never happens but when these circumstances crop up, enrolling in business risk management programs is a way to have that backstop when you need it most."
Leal said AgriCorp staff have been asked to visit farms to assess damage claims as quickly as possible.
Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Keith Currie said about 60 to 70 per cent of Ontario farmers have some kind of provincial crop insurance.
Farmer Dwight Foster, who hosted Leal, said he's lost more than 150 hectares of farmland to flooding this year, representing a loss in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He said he pays into these provincial farm insurance policies, but will only get money back if he harvests at least 20 per cent fewer crops than his average yield.
With around 1,500 hectares of farmland, he doesn't think he'll lose enough to qualify for reimbursement.
"Once we see what we harvest then we'll know what our average is and whether the crop insurance program will pay out or not. I don't expect it will work for us," he said.
Leal said more money would be available for farmers from the federal government if it loosens its farm aid rules as part of an ongoing review.
"Right now AgriRecovery can only be triggered when there's an absolute destruction of a farm industry. A good example are the tremendous floods in Manitoba where the entire agriculture sector was wiped out south of Winnipeg. British Columbia had their poultry industry completely wiped out due to avian influenza," he said.
"AgriRecovery works fine in those circumstances, but when you have a regional problem that does tremendous damage, we want to make sure the federal government will be flexible to regional needs."
Leal said the federal government is taking a year to review its farm insurance system, starting in mid-July after a meeting between the provincial and territorial agriculture ministers and federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.